NFL Rumors: Ben Johnson Saw Commanders Execs as ‘Basketball Guys,’ Was ‘Turned Off’
Scott LogoFeatured Columnist IVFebruary 3, 2024

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - SEPTEMBER 24: Ben Johnson offensive coordinator with the Detroit Lions looks on during a game against the Atlanta Falcons at Ford Field on September 24, 2023 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)

Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

Josh Harris was already the governor of the Philadelphia 76ers when he led a group that purchased the Washington Commanders, and that basketball background was reportedly an issue for one of their coaching candidates.

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported Tuesday that Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson told the Commanders and Seattle Seahawks he was staying put instead of pursuing a head-coaching opportunity with one of their teams.

ESPN’s Jenna Laine provided more background for the Washington decision and noted Johnson was “turned off” by the team’s ownership, which he viewed as “basketball guys” who were “a little too confident in their football opinions.”

Harris isn’t the only one involved with the Commanders who comes from a basketball background.

NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson is part of the ownership group, and the team also hired Bob Myers to be part of the front office. Myers previously worked with the Golden State Warriors and helped build a team that won four of the last nine NBA titles as a modern-day dynasty.

As for Johnson, ESPN’s Jason Reid pushed back at speculation the reason the Commanders didn’t hire him was because he interviewed poorly and referenced a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter that team officials were on the way to Detroit when they found out about his decision:

Jason Reid @JReidESPN

Thread: Been tied up working, so I missed the “report” on Ben Johnson supposedly interviewing so poorly with the @Commanders being the reason he informed the team he wouldn’t take the job. This is all-time banana-in-the-tailpipe stuff. Even as I typed that, the mental

Jason Reid @JReidESPN

because of how poorly he interviewed previously. Anyone who covers the NFL gets why these “reports” are put out. It’s never a good look for an owner to fail to get the HC he wants, especially a new owner of a franchise such as Washington. The fans have been through a lot.

Ultimately, Washington hired Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to be its next head coach.

The Dallas defense finished in the top five in the league in yards and points allowed while winning the NFC East this past season. Quinn also has head-coaching experience from when he led the Atlanta Falcons from 2015 to 2020 during a span that included a Super Bowl appearance.

He is a veteran leader who could ultimately find success with the Commanders.

Yet all signs did point toward Johnson at one point. He is a highly regarded offensive coordinator who just helped the Lions reach the NFC Championship Game for the first time since the 1991 campaign.

Detroit’s offense finished in the top five in the league in yards and points during each of the last two seasons with him at the helm, and he seems destined to become a head coach sooner rather than later.

For now, though, he will continue to build the Lions alongside head coach Dan Campbell, who does not have a basketball background.

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